By Trey McCurry.
Clemson head coach Brad Brownell held a press conference Monday to preview Tuesday night’s game with Michigan.
The first thing with Michigan is Coach Beilein. I have a lot of respect for him. I have competed against him back when I was an assistant at UNC Wilmington and he was the head coach at Richmond. One of the unique things about him that is different than most coaches is that he is an innovator. His offense is something he designed and has tweaked through the years and is very difficult to play against. As a coach, you have a lot of respect for a guy that comes up with his own offense.
Michigan is a younger team with talented young players. Morris and Hardaway are both very good freshman. Morgan and Smotrycz inside are two young big players that are beginning to have good years and playing well. They shoot the ball well and extend our defense. One thing I have noticed about this year’s team is their defensive stats are better. Teams are having a difficult time scoring against them and not shooting the ball well from the perimeter.
We are excited to have a chance to be a part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and look forward to the game.
On the next three game stretch (Michigan, at South Carolina, at Florida State):
We are really just focused on Michigan. I know we have other big games coming up in the next two weeks, but right now our team needs to just pay attention to Michigan and have our focus there. Hopefully we will have our second good day of practice today and we will need to play well to win this game.
On defending the Michigan offense:
It is difficult to get a feel for it in a short prep time. You can’t really simulate it in practice. It is almost impossible for your scout team to put what they do into practice against it. You have to just put in some key concepts and hope that your guys are ready to read and react to situations. We have to fly around and be very active defensively. We have to rebound a little bit better than we have at times and certainly defend the three. They are a team that prides themselves on shooting the three point shot and you have to make that difficult for them.
On what makes Coach Beilein’s offense innovative:
They run a two-guard offense where there is no true point guard. They have a variety of reads that they make and there are certainly plays, but more about patterns. They have all kinds of wrinkles. They don’t play with a true post-player but bring all five guys up above the free throw line and start their offense out high. It has a lot of different things you have to guard. A lot of the same things we try to have in our motion offense, but they do it in a unique way. It is very challenging combined with the fact that he usually has more shooters than about anybody else you play. It has been interesting through the years to watch him tweak it.
On how facing the system in the past will help Tuesday night:
It might help a little bit. At the end of the day, I don’t play. It will be the first time our guys have seen it and they are the guys that have to make the reads. It is more important for those guys to be prepared. I may be able to help a little more than someone who has never seen it before, but it still very challenging.
On his own system so far this season:
We have had some ups and downs. Sometimes I think we on the bench get frustrated during games because we aren’t playing as well as we would like. Going back and watching the tape, we may do better than we thought we did during the game, especially from an offensive standpoint. We have had certain games where we played well. The other night, I didn’t think we shot the ball well as the game was going on, but watching the tape we had plenty of good shots, we just didn’t make them. It is a yearly battle of tweaking and trying to figure out what works best for each game. Certain teams make one thing more difficult than another. The challenge is getting our guys to understand all those things and implement the offense from game-to-game.
On Milton Jennings so far this year:
I think our staff has done a good job of coaching Milton to date in terms of allowing him to play through a mistake or two, giving him some freedom, and making him feel comfortable. Naturally, kids look over their shoulder when they make a mistake and we have tried to give him some more freedom with that. He fits our style of play well in that he is a big guy that can step out on the floor and make some shots, pass the ball, and moves well. I think our style has helped Milton and he has played and practiced well. He has gained confidence and keeps building into a productive season.
On the Michigan brand and being on TV as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge:
Being part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge is what makes this game really special. For three days, it is talked about and who is winning. A lot of the college basketball world looks at these games and it gives you the opportunity to play well on a national stage. It brings notoriety to your program and showcase Littlejohn. Hopefully we play well for everyone watching. It is a stage there than with just a regular Clemson/Michigan game in that is part of the challenge.